A wry view of life for the world-weary

Are We All Nomophobes Now?


Yesteryear seems a golden age, the like of which we will never see again. Life was simpler and less frenetic. For the second time it was an Apple that went a long way to destroying our idyllic existence.

When I was a child a telephone in the house was a luxury. If we had to communicate with someone we used quaintly old-fashioned methods like putting on a hat and coat and going to see the intended recipient of our news or putting pen to paper.

There were public telephones, housed in red boxes – remember them – with a hand set and a box with two buttons, A to be pressed once the person at the other end had picked up so you could be heard and B to get your money back in the event that there was no connection. I remember occasionally going into telephone boxes and pressing the B button on the off-chance that some change might fall out.

Each box had its own telephone number assigned to it and so it was possible to pre-arrange to call someone, assuming, of course, the telephone wasn’t being used by someone else at the time. If it was, cue frantic tapping on the window to get them to disengage. Most telephone boxes came with a certain odour as they were a convenient stopping off point for those who had a call of nature to attend to.

If we really had some important news to convey, the other option was to use a telegram. The arrival of a telegram was often a thing of dread in many households as during the wars it was the usual medium for informing relatives of the death of a loved one in combat. I only ever received one and in 1982 after a run of 139 years the service stopped.

All this seems antediluvian nowadays in a world of instant communications. Our smartphones allow us to send messages by a variety of media, surf the world-wide net and, if we have to, even have a conversation by phone. As an aside, I notice these days that youngsters immensely comfortable and proficient at whizzing messages back and forth treat the prospect of an interactive vocal conversation with dread, needing time to prepare and compose their thoughts.

But our brave new world comes with a set of problems which go under the label of nomophobia. One of those fatuous surveys that keep me in material reported that 53% of mobile phone users in Britain (58% male, 43% female) tend to get anxious when they lose their phone, run out of battery or credit or have no network coverage. 55% cited inability to contact their family by phone as a major reason for this anxiety – personally, I’ve always found a flat battery a convenient excuse for avoiding such contact.

And the latest form of nomophobia is dead-battery anxiety – we all need a healthy stock of anxieties these days – which strikes the afflicted when battery levels are dangerously low. Watch them desperately searching for a plug socket and see them go like a rat up a pump when they find one, oblivious to who pays for the electricity supply they are tapping into. This nearly got Robin Lee into hot water when he plugged into a London Overground socket and fellow sufferer, Nick Silvestri, jumped on to the stage of a Broadway show and tried to charge his phone in a prop outlet. I carry a magnetic dummy socket to brighten up dull train journeys – works every time!

Still, we shouldn’t mock the afflicted. As we become increasingly subservient to the tyranny of the mobile phone, we will all be nomophobes. Life used to be so much simpler.


One response to “Are We All Nomophobes Now?

  1. Paris Adèle (@MissParisAdele) September 10, 2015 at 10:19 am

    This post put a pleasant smile on my face, especially memories of telephone boxes. The memory of crank phone calls as a young child provided a mountain of fun and whilst living in London on a two year Aussie backpacker working holiday, the discovery of two red phone boxes side by side, one with a line up and one void of people, had me curious and much to my delight one of the phone boxes was offering unlimited free phone calls to anywhere in the world. I was able to call my family in Australia for free. I wondered whether it was a Christmas gift from a disgruntled BT tech. Now I join the ranks of suffering from dead-battery anxiety too. Great post. Thank you

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